How and Why to Create a DIY Indoor Living Plant Wall

February 15, 2023

How and Why to Create a DIY Indoor Living Plant Wall

Plant walls are incredibly versatile and beautiful. They make it simple to add new plants, and are the perfect combination of art and function. They're also an asset to indoor air quality. According to the Clean Air Study by NASA, certain plants can help lower chemicals in indoor air. NASA uses this technique in their space station, too.

Why Purify Indoor Air?

The average American spends over 90 percent of their time indoors. And, according to the EPA, indoor air is two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors.

A primary cause of polluted indoor air, as well as its linked health concerns, are VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that a large range of household products emit.

Energy-efficient buildings filled with high-tech equipment and modern furnishings off-gas hundreds of volatile organics that potentially interact with each other.  

You might think only outdoor air harbors toxins. And, there are plenty of toxins polluting the outdoor air, thanks to things like:

  • Pesticides
  • Vehicle fumes
  • Herbicides
  • Other industrial pollutants

But, you also have a plethora of toxins in your home's indoor air as well.

Things that affect indoor air quality are:

  • Cleaning products, particularly fabric softener and laundry detergent
  • Formaldehyde found in garbage bags, gas stoves, tissues, paper towels, some fabrics, and carpet backing
  • Chemical flame retardants in traditional mattresses, furniture, and children's pajamas
  • Other toxins you carry in on your shoes and clothes from the outdoors
  • Fragrances
  • Electromagnetic frequencies (i.e. WiFi, computers, other electronics)

Indoor air pollution problems have been researched and documented over the past decade by many investigators. One promising approach to help reduce trace levels of indoor air pollutants is the use of higher plants as well as their related soil microorganisms. This can be done through a DIY indoor living plant.

In fact, one study in a simulated building, an indoor living plant filter was designed and grown. The results showed this green biowall test improved the quality of the indoor air three times quicker than the indoor air without a green biowall.

Benefits of Creating Indoor Living Plant Walls

Creating indoor (and outdoor) living plant walls could possibly benefit you in a variety of ways, including:

  • Cleaning outdoor air of dust and pollutants, and offsetting the carbon footprint of fuel emissions and people
  • Reducing smog and urban heat island effect
  • Acting as a soundproofing barrier
  • Cleaning indoor air by eliminating VOCs and other harsh toxins like formaldehyde and benzene
  • Insulating and cooling the building envelope, and keeping it protected from the elements
  • Helping kids with ADHD focus, and concentrate better in school
  • Speeding recovery time for patients through the process of biophilia
  • Increasing foot traffic in retail stores
  • Increasing real estate value
  • Qualifying for LEED certification points through USGBC
  • Boosting employee morale

Types of Plants Best for Purifying Indoor Air

The following plants are effective at removing indoor air contaminants and toxins.

  1. Bamboo Palm

These can effectively remove chemical contaminants from the air such as benzene and formaldehyde. They also help keep moisture in the air, which is particularly helpful in the wintertime when heaters are producing overly dry indoor air. Bamboo palms, while green and not the typical tan bamboo color, fanned leaves and tall, skinny canes, have a tropical appearance.

  1. Boston Fern

Ferns are a well-known variety of houseplants. The Boston fern is thought to be a great plant to remove indoor air pollutants, and to add humidity to indoor air.

Although it's good at maintaining clean indoor air, it is a bit finicky, requiring an attentive caretaker. If you don't mist and water it frequently, the leaves can turn brown quickly, and fall off.

  1. Rubber Plant

The rubber plant is particularly effective at eliminating formaldehyde from the air indoors. It's favored for how easy it is to grow it, along with its appearance, which includes rubbery leaves. It can grow pretty tall in the right conditions, and is bred for toughness, meaning it's not just an effective plant to purify indoor air, but also because it can withstand less than ideal conditions.

  1. Dwarf Date Palm

If you like tropical plants, this plant is perfect for you. It looks like a mini palm tree you can fit right into your living room. It's also effective at removing pollution in indoor air, particularly xylene, found in paint thinner and solvents. It also keeps air moist, and is relatively simple to grow.

  1. English Ivy

English ivy is usually seen growing as a covering in lobbies and atriums; however, it makes a gorgeous feature when grown as a topiary. Similar to a rubber plant, the English ivy has the ability of removing formaldehyde from the air. It requires a lot of light for it to look its best, but it does well in temperatures that aren't too hot. It's also extremely adaptable to its environment, climbing and spreading over any surface around it.

How to Create an Indoor Living Plant Wall

You’ll need to consider several factors when creating your indoor living plant wall.

  1. Location Requirements

You first need to decide where you'll be placing your vertical garden, so that it receives the correct light. The best option is natural light through a nearby window or a skylight.

  1. Display Options

Next, you'll want to decide how you're going to mount it. There are many options. You can buy a pre-made frame made from things like:

  • Wood
  • Steel with felt pockets
  • Recycled synthetic material (i.e. water bottles)
  • Other reliable support

Some individuals might use angled plant trays that hang like shelves, and hold each plant that you can simply slide in and out for manual maintenance easily.

  1. Plant Selection

You now want to choose your plant selection. There are endless possibilities for your plant wall in terms of a single species showcase or color palette. Keep in mind your green wall isn't limited to ornamental plants, either. You can even set up a vegetable garden with edible plants like peppers and tomatoes, or a vertical herb garden.

  1. Basic Maintenance

If your green wall has a self-watering system, then it won't take much maintenance. If your plant wall is arranged where your plants stay in their nursery pots, you might want to take the plants out occasionally, and clean your wall. Plants attract insects, so you want to ensure they stay clean. You can help prevent any issues by wiping your plants' leaves with simple soap and water. You may also have to trim or prune unmanageable foliage periodically.

If you plan on watering and maintaining your indoor living plant wall manually, you want to make sure you don't overwater them, and keep plants requiring the same microclimate conditions, and the same amount of light to thrive and grow.

When you create an indoor living plant wall, you're basically bringing nature into your office or home. You're also creating a positive "feel-good" association between plants and individuals, offering green space alternatives to man-made environments and urban areas. And, you're purifying the indoor air at the same time.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.